Anna Katharine Green
Part 1 out of 6
by Anna Katharine Green
AS SEEN BY TWO STRANGERS
II "I KNOW THE MAN"
III THE MAN
IV SWEET LITTLE MISS CLARKE
V THE RED CLOAK
VII THE LETTERS
VIII STRANGE DOINGS FOR GEORGE
IX THE INCIDENT OF THE PARTLY LIFTED SHADE
AS SEEN BY DETECTIVE SWEETWATER
X A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
XI ALIKE IN ESSENTIALS
XII Mr. GRYCE FINDS AN ANTIDOTE FOR OLD AGE
XIII TIME, CIRCUMSTANCE, AND A VILLAIN'S HEART
XIV A CONCESSION
XV THAT'S THE QUESTION
XVII IN WHICH A BOOK PLAYS LEADING PART
XVIII WHAT AM I TO DO NOW?
XIX THE DANGER MOMENT
XXI A CHANGE
XXII O. B. AGAIN
THE HEART OF MAN
XXV THE OVAL HUT
XXVI SWEETWATER RETURNS
XXVII THE IMAGE OF DREAD
XXVIII I HOPE NEVER TO SEE THAT MAN
XXIX DO YOU KNOW MY BROTHER?
XXXI WHAT IS HE MAKING?
XXXII TELL ME, TELL IT ALL
XXXIV THE HUT CHANGES ITS NAME
XXXV SILENCE--AND A KNOCK
XXXVI THE MAN WITHIN AND THE MAN WITHOUT
XXXVII HIS GREAT HOUR
XXXIX THE AVENGER
XLI FIVE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING
XLII AT SIX
AS SEEN BY TWO STRANGERS
"A remarkable man!"
It was not my husband speaking, but some passerby. However, I
looked up at George with a smile, and found him looking down at me
with much the same humour. We had often spoken of the odd phrases
one hears in the street, and how interesting it would be sometimes
to hear a little more of the conversation.
"That's a case in point," he laughed, as he guided me through the
crowd of theatre-goers which invariably block this part of Broadway
at the hour of eight. "We shall never know whose eulogy we have
just heard. 'A remarkable man!' There are not many of them."
"No," was my somewhat indifferent reply. It was a keen winter night
and snow was packed upon the walks in a way to throw into sharp
relief the figures of such pedestrians as happened to be walking
alone. "But it seems to me that, so far as general appearance goes,
the one in front answers your description most admirably."
I pointed to a man hurrying around the corner just ahead of us.
"Yes, he's remarkably well built. I noticed him when he came out
of the Clermont." This was a hotel we had just passed.
"But it's not only that. It's his height, his very striking
features, his expression--" I stopped suddenly, gripping George's
arm convulsively in a surprise he appeared to share. We had turned
the corner immediately behind the man of whom we were speaking and
so had him still in full view.
"What's he doing?" I asked, in a low whisper. We were only a few
feet behind. "Look! look! don't you call that curious?"
My husband stared, then uttered a low, "Rather." The man ahead of
us, presenting in every respect the appearance of a gentleman, had
suddenly stooped to the kerb and was washing his hands in the snow,
furtively, but with a vigour and purpose which could not fail to
arouse the strangest conjectures in any chance onlooker.
"Pilate!" escaped my lips, in a sort of nervous chuckle. But
George shook his head at me.
"I don't like it," he muttered, with unusual gravity. "Did you
see his face?" Then as the man rose and hurried away from us down
the street, "I should like to follow him. I do believe--"
But here we became aware of a quick rush and sudden clamour around
the corner we had just left, and turning quickly, saw that something
had occurred on Broadway which was fast causing a tumult.
"What's the matter?" I cried. "What can have happened? Let's go
see, George. Perhaps it has something to do with our man."
My husband, with a final glance down the street at the fast
disappearing figure, yielded to my importunity, and possibly to
some new curiosity of his own.
"I'd like to stop that man first," said he. "But what excuse have
I? He may be nothing but a crank, with some crack-brained idea in
his head. We'll soon know; for there's certainly something wrong
there on Broadway."
"He came out of the Clermont," I suggested.
"I know. If the excitement isn't there, what we've just seen is
simply a coincidence." Then, as we retraced our steps to the corner
"Whatever we hear or see, don't say anything about this man. It's
after eight, remember, and we promised Adela that we would be at the
house before nine."
"I'll be quiet."
It was the last word he had time to speak before we found ourselves
in the midst of a crowd of men and women, jostling one another in
curiosity or in the consternation following a quick alarm. All were
looking one way, and, as this was towards the entrance of the
Clermont, it was evident enough to us that the alarm had indeed had
its origin in the very place we had anticipated. I felt my husband's
arm press me closer to his side as we worked our way towards the
entrance, and presently caught a warning sound from his lips as the
oaths and confused cries everywhere surrounding us were broken here
and there by articulate words and we heard:
"Is it murder?"
"The beautiful Miss Challoner!"
"A millionairess in her own right!"
"Killed, they say."
"No, no! suddenly dead; that's all."
"George, what shall we do?" I managed to cry into my husband's ear.
"Get out of this. There is no chance of our reaching that door,
and I can't have you standing round any longer in this icy slush."
"But--but is it right?" I urged, in an importunate whisper.
"Should we go home while he--"
"Hush! My first duty is to you. We will go make our visit; but
"I can't wait till to-morrow," I pleaded, wild to satisfy my
curiosity in regard to an event in which I naturally felt a keen
He drew me as near to the edge of the crowd as he could. There
were new murmurs all about us.
"If it's a case of heart-failure, why send for the police?" asked
"It is better to have an officer or two here," grumbled another.
"Here comes a cop."
"Well, I'm going to vamoose."
"I'll tell you what I'll do," whispered George, who, for all his
bluster was as curious as myself. "We will try the rear door where
there are fewer persons. Possibly we can make our way in there,
and if we can, Slater will tell us all we want to know."
Slater was the assistant manager of the Clermont, and one of
George's oldest friends.
"Then hurry," said I. "I am being crushed here."
George did hurry, and in a few minutes we were before the rear
entrance of the great hotel. There was a mob gathered here also,
but it was neither so large nor so rough as the one on Broadway.
Yet I doubt if we should have been able to work our way through it
if Slater had not, at that very instant, shown himself in the
doorway, in company with an officer to whom he was giving some
final instructions. George caught his eye as soon as he was through
with the man, and ventured on what I thought a rather uncalled for
"Let us in, Slater," he begged. "My wife feels a little faint; she
has been knocked about so by the crowd."
The manager glanced at my face, and shouted to the people around
us to make room. I felt myself lifted up, and that is all I remember
of this part of our adventure. For, affected more than I realised
by the excitement of the event, I no sooner saw the way cleared for
our entrance than I made good my husband's words by fainting away
When I came to, it was suddenly and with perfect recognition of my
surroundings. The small reception room to which I had been taken
was one I had often visited, and its familiar features did not hold
my attention for a moment. What I did see and welcome was my
husband's face bending close over me, and to him I spoke first. My
words must have sounded oddly to those about. "Have they told you
anything about it?" I asked. "Did he--"
A quick pressure on my arm silenced me, and then I noticed that we
were not alone. Two or three ladies stood near, watching me, and
one had evidently been using some restorative, for she held a
small vinaigrette in her hand. To this lady, George made haste to
introduce me, and from her I presently learned the cause of the
disturbance in the hotel.
It was of a somewhat different nature from what I expected, and
during the recital, I could not prevent myself from casting furtive
and inquiring glances at George.
Edith, the well-known daughter of Moses Challoner, had fallen
suddenly dead on the floor of the mezzanine. She was not known to
have been in poor health, still less in danger of a fatal attack,
and the shock was consequently great to her friends, several of
whom were in the building. Indeed, it was likely to prove a shock
to the whole community, for she had great claims to general
admiration, and her death must be regarded as a calamity to persons
in all stations of life.
I realised this myself, for I had heard much of the young lady's
private virtues, as well as of her great beauty and distinguished
manner. A heavy loss, indeed, but--
"Was she alone when she fell?" I asked.
"Virtually alone. Some persons sat on the other side of the room,
reading at the big round table. They did not even hear her fall.
They say that the band was playing unusually loud in the musicians'
"Are you feeling quite well, now?"
"Quite myself," I gratefully replied as I rose slowly from the
sofa. Then, as my kind informer stepped aside, I turned to George
with the proposal we should go now.
He seemed as anxious as myself to leave and together we moved towards
the door, while the hum of excited comment which the intrusion of a
fainting woman had undoubtedly interrupted, recommenced behind us
till the whole room buzzed.
In the hall we encountered Mr. Slater, whom I have before mentioned.
He was trying to maintain order while himself in a state of great
agitation. Seeing us, he could not refrain from whispering a few
words into my husband's ear.
"The doctor has just gone up--her doctor, I mean. He's simply
dumbfounded. Says that she was the healthiest woman in New York
yesterday--I think--don't mention it, that he suspects something
quite different from heart failure."
"What do you mean?" asked George, following the assistant manager
down the broad flight of steps leading to the office. Then, as I
pressed up close to Mr. Slater's other side, "She was by herself,
wasn't she, in the half floor above?"
"Yes, and had been writing a letter. She fell with it still in her
"Have they carried her to her room?" I eagerly inquired, glancing
fearfully up at the large semi-circular openings overlooking us from
the place where she had fallen.
"Not yet. Mr. Hammond insists upon waiting for the coroner." (Mr.
Hammond was the proprietor of the hotel.) "She is lying on one of
the big couches near which she fell. If you like, I can give you a
glimpse of her. She looks beautiful. It's terrible to think that
she is dead."
I don't know why we consented. We were under a spell, I think. At
all events, we accepted his offer and followed him up a narrow
staircase open to very few that night. At the top, he turned upon
us with a warning gesture which I hardly think we needed, and led
us down a narrow hall flanked by openings corresponding to those we
had noted from below. At the furthest one he paused and, beckoning
us to his side, pointed across the lobby into the large writing-room
which occupied the better part of the mezzanine floor.
We saw people standing in various attitudes of grief and dismay
about a couch, one end of which only was visible to us at the
moment. The doctor had just joined them, and every head was turned
towards him and every body bent forward in anxious expectation. I
remember the face of one grey haired old man. I shall never forget
it. He was probably her father. Later, I knew him to be so. Her
face, even her form, was entirely hidden from us, but as we watched
(I have often thought with what heartless curiosity) a sudden
movement took place in the whole group--and for one instant a
startling picture presented itself to our gaze. Miss Challoner
was stretched out upon the couch. She was dressed as she came from
dinner, in a gown of ivory-tinted satin, relieved at the breast by
a large bouquet of scarlet poinsettias. I mention this adornment,
because it was what first met and drew our eyes and the eyes of
every one about her, though the face, now quite revealed, would
seem to have the greater attraction. But the cause was evident and
one not to be resisted. The doctor was pointing at these poinsettias
in horror and with awful meaning, and though we could not hear his
words, we knew almost instinctively, both from his attitude and the
cries which burst from the lips of those about him, that something
more than broken petals and disordered laces had met his eyes; that
blood was there--slowly oozing drops from the heart--which for
some reason had escaped all eyes till now.
Miss Challoner was dead, not from unsuspected disease, but from the
violent attack of some murderous weapon; As the realisation of this
brought fresh panic and bowed the old father's head with emotions
even more bitter than those of grief, I turned a questioning look
up at George's face.
It was fixed with a purpose I had no trouble in understanding.
"I KNOW THE MAN"
Yet he made no effort to detain Mr. Slater, when that gentleman,
under this renewed excitement, hastily left us. He was not the man
to rush into anything impulsively, and not even the presence of
murder could change his ways.
"I want to feel sure of myself," he explained. "Can you bear the
strain of waiting around a little longer, Laura? I mustn't forget
that you fainted just now."
"Yes, I can bear it; much better than I could bear going to Adela's
in my present state of mind. Don't you think the man we saw had
something to do with this? Don't you believe--"
"Hush! Let us listen rather than talk. What are they saying over
there? Can you hear?"
"No. And I cannot bear to look. Yet I don't want to go away. It's
all so dreadful."
"It's devilish. Such a beautiful girl! Laura, I must leave you
for a moment. Do you mind?"
"No, no; yet--"
I did mind; but he was gone before I could take back my word. Alone,
I felt the tragedy much more than when he was with me. Instead of
watching, as I had hitherto done, every movement in the room opposite,
I drew back against the wall and hid my eyes, waiting feverishly for
He came, when he did come, in some haste and with certain marks of
"Laura," said he, "Slater says that we may possibly be wanted and
proposes that we stay here all night. I have telephoned Adela and
have made it all right at home. Will you come to your room? This
is no place for you."
Nothing could have pleased me better; to be near and yet not the
direct observer of proceedings in which we took so secret an
interest! I showed my gratitude by following George immediately.
But I could not go without casting another glance at the tragic
scene I was leaving. A stir was perceptible there, and I was just
in time to see its cause. A tall, angular gentleman was approaching
from the direction of the musicians' gallery, and from the manner
of all present, as well as from the whispered comment of my husband,
I recognised in him the special official for whom all had been
"Are you going to tell him?" was my question to George as we made
our way down to the lobby.
"That depends. First, I am going to see you settled in a room quite
remote from this business."
"I shall not like that."
"I know, my dear, but it is best."
I could not gainsay this.
Nevertheless, after the first few minutes of relief, I found it
very lonesome upstairs. The pictures which crowded upon me of the
various groups of excited and wildly gesticulating men and women
through which we had passed on our way up, mingled themselves with
the solemn horror of the scene in the writing-room, with its
fleeting vision of youth and beauty lying pulseless in sudden death.
I could not escape the one without feeling the immediate impress of
the other, and if by chance they both yielded for an instant to
that earlier scene of a desolate Street, with its solitary lamp
shining down on the crouched figure of a man washing his shaking
hands in a drift of freshly fallen snow, they immediately rushed
back with a force and clearness all the greater for the momentary
I was still struggling with these fancies when the door opened, and
George came in. There was news in his face as I rushed to meet him.
"Tell me--tell," I begged.
He tried to smile at my eagerness, but the attempt was ghastly.
"I've been listening and looking," said he, "and this is all I
have learned. Miss Challoner died, not from a stroke or from
disease of any kind, but from a wound reaching the heart. No one
saw the attack, or even the approach or departure of the person
inflicting this wound. If she was killed by a pistol-shot, it was
at a distance, and almost over the heads of the persons sitting at
the table we saw there. But the doctors shake their heads at the
word pistol-shot, though they refuse to explain themselves or to
express any opinion till the wound has been probed. This they are
going to do at once, and when that question is decided, I may feel
it my duty to speak and may ask you to support my story."
"I will tell what I saw," said I.
"Very good. That is all that will be required. We are strangers
to the parties concerned, and only speak from a sense of justice.
It may be that our story will make no impression, and that we shall
be dismissed with but few thanks. But that is nothing to us. If
the woman has been murdered, he is the murderer. With such a
conviction in my mind, there can be no doubt as to my duty."
"We can never make them understand how he looked."
"No. I don't expect to."
"Or his manner as he fled."
"Nor that either."
"We can only describe what we saw him do."
"Oh, what an adventure for quiet people like us! George, I don't
believe he shot her."
"He must have."
"But they would have seen--have heard--the people around, I mean."
"So they say; but I have a theory--but no matter about that now.
I'm going down again to see how things have progressed. I'll be
back for you later. Only be ready."
Be ready! I almost laughed,--a hysterical laugh, of course, when I
recalled the injunction. Be ready! This lonely sitting by myself,
with nothing to do but think was a fine preparation for a sudden
appearance before those men--some of them police-officers, no doubt.
But that's enough about myself; I'm not the heroine of this story.
In a half hour or an hour--I never knew which--George reappeared
only to tell me that no conclusions had as yet been reached; an
element of great mystery involved the whole affair, and the most
astute detectives on the force had been sent for. Her father, who
had been her constant companion all winter, had not the least
suggestion to offer in way of its solution. So far as he knew--and
he believed himself to have been in perfect accord with his daughter
--she had injured no one. She had just lived the even, happy and
useful life of a young woman of means, who sees duties beyond those
of her own household and immediate surroundings. If, in the
fulfillment of those duties, she had encountered any obstacle to
content, he did not know it; nor could he mention a friend of hers
--he would even say lovers, since that was what he meant--who to
his knowledge could be accused of harbouring any such passion of
revenge as was manifested in this secret and diabolical attack.
They were all gentlemen and respected her as heartily as they
appeared to admire her. To no living being, man or woman, could he
point as possessing any motive for such a deed. She had been the
victim of some mistake, his lovely and ever kindly disposed
daughter, and while the loss was irreparable he would never make it
unendurable by thinking otherwise.
Such was the father's way of looking at the matter, and I own that
it made our duty a trifle hard. But George's mind, when once made
up, was persistent to the point of obstinacy, and while he was yet
talking he led me out of the room and down the hall to the elevator.
"Mr. Slater knows we have something to say, and will manage the
interview before us in the very best manner," he confided to me
now with an encouraging air. "We are to go to the blue reception
room on the parlour floor."
I nodded, and nothing more was said till we entered the place
mentioned. Here we came upon several gentlemen, standing about, of
a more or less professional appearance. This was not very agreeable
to one of my retiring disposition, but a look from George brought
back my courage, and I found myself waiting rather anxiously for the
questions I expected to hear put.
Mr. Slater was there according to his promise, and after introducing
us, briefly stated that we had some evidence to give regarding the
terrible occurrence which had just taken place in the house.
George bowed, and the chief spokesman--I am sure he was a
police-officer of some kind--asked him to tell what it was.
George drew himself up--George is not one of your tall men, but he
makes a very good appearance at times. Then he seemed suddenly to
collapse. The sight of their expectation made him feel how flat and
childish his story would sound. I, who had shared his adventure,
understood his embarrassment, but the others were evidently at a
loss to do so, for they glanced askance at each other as he
hesitated, and only looked back when I ventured to say:
"It's the peculiarity of the occurrence which affects my husband.
The thing we saw may mean nothing."
"Let us hear what it was and we will judge."
Then my husband spoke up, and related our little experience. If it
did not create a sensation, it was because these men were well
accustomed to surprises of all kinds.
"Washed his hands--a gentleman--out there in the snow--just
after the alarm was raised here?" repeated one.
"And you saw him come out of this house?" another put in.
"Yes, sir; we noticed him particularly.
"Can you describe him?"
It was Mr. Slater who put this question; he had less control over
himself, and considerable eagerness could be heard in his voice.
"He was a very fine-looking man; unusually tall and unusually
striking both in his dress and appearance. What I could see of
his face was bare of beard, and very expressive. He walked with
the swing of an athlete, and only looked mean and small when he
was stooping and dabbling in the snow."
"His clothes. Describe his clothes." There was an odd sound in
Mr. Slater's voice.
"He wore a silk hat and there was fur on his overcoat. I think
the fur was black."
Mr. Slater stepped back, then moved forward again with a determined
"I know the man," said he.
"You know the man?"
"I do; or rather, I know a man who answers to this description. He
comes here once in a while. I do not know whether or not he was in
the building to-night, but Clausen can tell you; no one escapes
"Brotherson. A very uncommon person in many respects; quite capable
of such an eccentricity, but incapable, I should say, of crime. He's
a gifted talker and so well read that he can hold one's attention for
hours. Of his tastes, I can only say that they appear to be mainly
scientific. But he is not averse to society, and is always very well
"A taste for science and for fine clothing do not often go together."
"This man is an exception to all rules. The one I'm speaking of, I
mean. I don't say that he's the fellow seen pottering in the snow."
"Call up Clausen."
The manager stepped to the telephone.
Meanwhile, George had advanced to speak to a man who had beckoned
to him from the other side of the room, and with whom in another
moment I saw him step out. Thus deserted, I sank into a chair near
one of the windows. Never had I felt more uncomfortable. To
attribute guilt to a totally unknown person--a person who is little
more to you than a shadowy silhouette against a background of snow
--is easy enough and not very disturbing to the conscience. But
to hear that person named; given positive attributes; lifted from
the indefinite into a living, breathing actuality, with a man's
hopes, purposes and responsibilities, is an entirely different
proposition. This Brotherson might be the most innocent person
alive; and, if so, what had we done? Nothing to congratulate
ourselves upon, certainly. And George was not present to comfort
and encourage me. He was--
Where was he? The man who had carried him off was the youngest in
the group. What had he wanted of George? Those who remained
showed no interest in the matter. They had enough to say among
themselves. But I was interested--naturally so, and, in my
uneasiness, glanced restlessly from the window, the shade of which
was up. The outlook was a very peaceful one. This room faced
a side street, and, as my eyes fell upon the whitened pavements, I
received an answer to one, and that the most anxious, of my queries.
This was the street into which we had turned, in the wake of the
handsome stranger they were trying at this very moment to identify
with Brotherson. George had evidently been asked to point out the
exact spot where the man had stopped, for I could see from my
vantage point two figures bending near the kerb, and even pawing
at the snow which lay there. It gave me a slight turn when one of
them--I do not think it was George--began to rub his hands
together in much the way the unknown gentleman had done, and, in
my excitement, I probably uttered some sort of an ejaculation, for
I was suddenly conscious of a silence in the room, and when I
turned saw all the men about me looking my way.
I attempted to smile, but instead, shuddered painfully, as I
raised my hand and pointed down at the street.
"They are imitating the man," I cried; "my husband and--and the
person he went out with. It looked dreadful to me; that is all."
One of the gentlemen immediately said some kind words to me, and
another smiled in a very encouraging way. But their attention
was soon diverted, and so was mine by the entrance of a man in
semi-uniform, who was immediately addressed as Clausen.
I knew his face. He was one of the doorkeepers; the oldest employee
about the hotel, and the one best liked. I had often exchanged
words with him myself.
Mr. Slater at once put his question:
"Has Mr. Brotherson passed your door at any time to-night?
"Mr. Brotherson! I don't remember, really I don't," was the
unexpected reply. "It's not often I forget. But so many people
came rushing in during those few minutes, and all so excited--"
"Before the excitement, Clausen. A little while before, possibly
"Oh, now I recall him! Yes, Mr. Brotherson went out of my door
not many minutes before the cry upstairs. I forgot because I had
stepped back from the door to hand a lady the muff she had dropped,
and it was at that minute he went out. I just got a glimpse of his
back as he passed into the street."
"But you are sure of that back?"
"I don't know another like it, when he wears that big coat of his.
But Jim can tell you, sir. He was in the cafe up to that minute,
and that's where Mr. Brotherson usually goes first."
"Very well; send up Jim. Tell him I have some orders to give him."
The old man bowed and went out.
Meanwhile, Mr. Slater had exchanged some words with the two
officials, and now approached me with an expression of extreme
consideration. They were about to excuse me from further
participation in this informal inquiry. This I saw before he
spoke. Of course they were right. But I should greatly have
preferred to stay where I was till George came back.
However, I met him for an instant in the hall before I took the
elevator, and later I heard in a round-about way what Jim and
some others about the house had to say of Mr. Brotherson.
He was an habitue of the hotel, to the extent of dining once or
twice a week in the cafe, and smoking, afterwards, in the public
lobby. When he was in the mood for talk, he would draw an
ever-enlarging group about him, but at other times he would be
seen sitting quite alone and morosely indifferent to all who
approached him. There was no mystery about his business. He was
an inventor, with one or two valuable patents already on the market.
But this was not his only interest. He was an all round sort of
man, moody but brilliant in many ways--a character which at once
attracted and repelled, odd in that he seemed to set little store
by his good looks, yet was most careful to dress himself in a way
to show them off to advantage. If he had means beyond the ordinary
no one knew it, nor could any man say that he had not. On all
personal matters he was very close-mouthed, though he would talk
about other men's riches in a way to show that he cherished some
very extreme views.
This was all which could be learned about him off-hand, and at so
late an hour. I was greatly interested, of course, and had plenty
to think of till I saw George again and learned the result of the
Miss Challoner had been shot, not stabbed. No other deduction was
possible from such facts as were now known, though the physicians
had not yet handed in their report, or even intimated what that
report would be. No assailant could have approached or left her,
without attracting the notice of some one, if not all of the
persons seated at a table in the same room. She could only have
been reached by a bullet sent from a point near the head of a small
winding staircase connecting the mezzanine floor with a coat-room
adjacent to the front door. This has already been insisted on, as
you will remember, and if you will glance at the diagram which
George hastily scrawled for me, you will see why.
A. B., as well as C. D., are half circular openings into the office
lobby. E. F. are windows giving upon Broadway, and G. the party
wall, necessarily unbroken by window, door or any other opening.
| ===desk |
| Where Miss C Fell-x o
| A o
| _____ |
| |_____|table |
| B o
| ________ H ________ |
| *** | |
| ** ** |elevator |
| ** staircase
| ** ** X. |_________|_____C_________D____
F Musician's Gallery
|____ ______________ ________________ ______
| Dining Room Level With Lobby
It follows then that the only possible means of approach to this
room lies through the archway H., or from the elevator door. But
the elevator made no stop at the mezzanine on or near the time of
the attack upon Miss Challoner; nor did any one leave the table
or pass by it in either direction till after the alarm given by
But a bullet calls for no approach. A man at X. might raise and
fire his pistol without attracting any attention to himself. The
music, which all acknowledge was at its full climax at this moment,
would drown the noise of the explosion, and the staircase, out of
view of all but the victim, afford the same means of immediate
escape, which it must have given of secret and unseen approach.
The coat-room into which it descended communicated with the lobby
very near the main entrance, and if Mr. Brotherson were the man,
his sudden appearance there would thus be accounted for.
To be sure, this gentleman had not been noticed in the coatroom by
the man then in charge, but if the latter had been engaged at that
instant, as he often was, in hanging up or taking down a coat from
the rack, a person might easily pass by him and disappear into the
lobby without attracting his attention. So many people passed that
way from the dining-room beyond, and so many of these were tall,
fine-looking and well-dressed.
It began to look bad for this man, if indeed he were the one we had
seen under the street-lamp; and, as George and I reviewed the
situation, we felt our position to be serious enough for us severally
to set down our impressions of this man before we lost our first
vivid idea. I do not know what George wrote, for he sealed his words
up as soon as he had finished writing, but this is what I put on paper
while my memory was still fresh and my excitement unabated:
He had the look of a man of powerful intellect and determined will,
who shudders while he triumphs; who outwardly washes his hands of
a deed over which he inwardly gloats. This was when he first rose
from the snow. Afterwards he had a moment of fear; plain, human,
everyday fear. But this was evanescent. Before he had turned to
go, he showed the self-possession of one who feels himself so
secure, or is so well-satisfied with himself, that he is no longer
conscious of other emotions.
"Poor fellow," I commented aloud, as I folded up these words; "he
reckoned without you, George. By to-morrow he will be in the hands
of the police."
"Poor fellow?" he repeated. "Better say 'Poor Miss Challoner!'
They tell me she was one of those perfect women who reconcile even
the pessimist to humanity and the age we live in. Why any one
should want to kill her is a mystery; but why this man should
--There! no one professes to explain it. They simply go by the
facts. To-morrow surely must bring strange revelations."
And with this sentence ringing in my mind, I lay down and endeavoured
to sleep. But it was not till very late that rest came. The noise
of passing feet, though muffled beyond their wont, roused me in spite
of myself. These footsteps might be those of some late arrival, or
they might be those of some wary detective intent on business far
removed from the usual routine of life in this great hotel.
I recalled the glimpse I had had of the writing-room in the early
evening, and imagined it as it was with Miss Challoner's body
removed and the incongruous flitting of strange and busy figures
across its fatal floors, measuring distances and peering into
corners, while hundreds slept above and about them in undisturbed
Then I thought of him, the suspected and possibly guilty one. In
visions over which I had little if any control, I saw him in all
the restlessness of a slowly dying down excitement--the
surroundings strange and unknown to me, the figure not--seeking
for quiet; facing the past; facing the future; knowing, perhaps,
for the first time in his life what it was for crime and remorse to
murder sleep. I could not think of him as lying still--slumbering
like the rest of mankind, in the hope and expectation of a busy
morrow. Crime perpetrated looms so large in the soul, and this man
had a soul as big as his body; of that I was assured. That its
instincts were cruel and inherently evil, did not lessen its capacity
for suffering. And he was suffering now; I could not doubt it,
remembering the lovely face and fragrant memory of the noble woman
he had, under some unknown impulse, sent to an unmerited doom.
At last I slept, but it was only to rouse again with the same quick
realisation of my surroundings, which I had experienced on my
recovery from my fainting fit of hours before. Someone had stopped
at our door before hurrying by down the hall. Who was that someone?
I rose on my elbow, and endeavoured to peer through the dark. Of
course, I could see nothing. But when I woke a second time, there
was enough light in the room, early as it undoubtedly was, for me
to detect a letter lying on the carpet just inside the door.
Instantly I was on my feet. Catching the letter up, I carried it
to the window. Our two names were on it--Mr. and Mrs. George
Anderson: the writing, Mr. Slater's.
I glanced over at George. He was sleeping peacefully. It was too
early to wake him, but I could not lay that letter down unread; was
not my name on it? Tearing it open, I devoured its contents,--the
exclamation I made on reading it, waking George.
The writing was in Mr. Slater's hand, and the words were:
"I must request, at the instance of Coroner Heath and such of
the police as listened to your adventure, that you make no
further mention of what you saw in the street under our windows
last night. The doctors find no bullet in the wound. This
clears Mr. Brotherson."
SWEET LITTLE MISS CLARKE
When we took our seats at the breakfast-table, it was with the
feeling of being no longer looked upon as connected in any way with
this case. Yet our interest in it was, if anything, increased, and
when I saw George casting furtive glances at a certain table behind
me, I leaned over and asked him the reason, being sure that the
people whose faces I saw reflected in the mirror directly before us
had something to do with the great matter then engrossing us. His
answer conveyed the somewhat exciting information that the four
persons seated in my rear were the same four who had been reading
at the round table in the mezzanine at the time of Miss Challoner's
Instantly they absorbed all my attention, though I dared not give
them a direct look, and continued to observe them only in the glass.
"Is it one family?" I asked.
"Yes, and a very respectable one. Transients, of course, but very
well known in Denver. The lady is not the mother of the boys, but
their aunt. The boys belong to the gentleman, who is a widower."
"Their word ought to be good."
"The boys look wide-awake enough if the father does not. As for
the aunt, she is sweetness itself. Do they still insist that Miss
Challoner was the only person in the room with them at this time?"
"They did last night. I don't know how they will meet this
statement of the doctor's."
He leaned nearer.
"Have you ever thought that she might have been a suicide? That
she stabbed herself?
"No, for in that case a weapon would have been found."
"And are you sure that none was?"
"Positive. Such a fact could not have been kept quiet. If a weapon
had been picked up there would be no mystery, and no necessity for
further police investigation."
"And the detectives are still here?
"I just saw one."
Again his head came nearer.
"Have they searched the lobby? I believe she had a weapon."
"I know it sounds foolish, but the alternative is so improbable. A
family like that cannot be leagued together in a conspiracy to hide
the truth concerning a matter so serious. To be sure, they may all
be short-sighted, or so little given to observation that they didn't
see what passed before their eyes. The boys look wide-awake enough,
but who can tell? I would sooner believe that--"
I stopped short so suddenly that George looked startled. My
attention had been caught by something new I saw in the mirror upon
which my attention was fixed. A man was looking in from the corridor
behind, at the four persons we were just discussing. He was watching
them intently, and I thought I knew his face.
"What kind of a looking person was the man who took you outside last
night?" I inquired of George, with my eyes still on this furtive
"A fellow to make you laugh. A perfect character, Laura; hideously
homely but agreeable enough. I took quite a fancy to him. Why?"
"I am looking at him now."
"Very likely. He's deep in this affair. Just an everyday detective,
but ambitious, I suppose, and quite alive to the importance of being
"He is watching those people. No, he isn't. How quickly he
"Yes, he's mercurial in all his movements. Laura, we must get out
of this. There happens to be something else in the world for me to
do than to sit around and follow up murder clews."
But we began to doubt if others agreed with him, when on passing
out we were stopped in the lobby by this same detective, who had
something to say to George, and drew him quickly aside.
"What does he want?" I asked, as soon as George had returned to
"He wants me to stand ready to obey any summons the police may
"Then they still suspect Brotherson?"
My head rose a trifle as I glanced up at George.
"Then we are not altogether out of it?" I emphasised, complacently.
He smiled which hardly seemed apropos. Why does George sometimes
smile when I am in my most serious moods.
As we stepped out of the hotel, George gave my arm a quiet pinch
which served to direct my attention to an elderly gentleman who,
was just alighting from a taxicab at the kerb. He moved heavily
and with some appearance of pain, but from the crowd collected on
the sidewalk many of whom nudged each other as he passed, he was
evidently a person of some importance, and as he disappeared within
the hotel entrance, I asked George who this kind-faced, bright-eyed
old gentleman could be.
He appeared to know, for he told me at once that he was Detective
Gryce; a man who had grown old in solving just such baffling
problems as these.
"He gave up work some time ago, I have been told," my husband went
on; "but evidently a great case still has its allurement for him.
The trail here must be a very blind one for them to call him in.
I wish we had not left so soon. It would have been quite an
experience to see him at work."
"I doubt if you would have been given the opportunity. I noticed
that we were slightly de trop towards the last."
"I wouldn't have minded that; not on my own account, that is. It
might not have been pleasant for you. However, the office is
waiting. Come, let me put you on the car."
That night I bided his coming with an impatience I could not control.
He was late, of course, but when he did appear, I almost forgot our
usual greeting in my hurry to ask him if he had seen the evening
"No," he grumbled, as he hung up his overcoat. "Been pushed about
all day. No time for anything."
"Then let me tell you--"
But he would have dinner first.
However, a little later we had a comfortable chat. Mr. Gryce had
made a discovery, and the papers were full of it. It was one which
gave me a small triumph over George. The suggestion he had laughed
at was not so entirely foolish as he had been pleased to consider
it. But let me tell the story of that day, without any further
reference to myself.
The opinion had become quite general with those best acquainted
with the details of this affair, that the mystery was one of those
abnormal ones for which no solution would ever be found, when the
aged detective showed himself in the building and was taken to the
room, where an Inspector of Police awaited him. Their greeting
was cordial, and the lines on the latter's face relaxed a little
as he met the still bright eye of the man upon whose instinct
and judgment so much reliance had always been placed.
"This is very good of you," he began, glancing down at the aged
detective's bundled up legs, and gently pushing a chair towards
him. "I know that it was a great deal to ask, but we're at our
wits' end, and so I telephoned. It's the most inexplicable--There!
you have heard that phrase before. But clews--there are absolutely
none. That is, we have not been able to find any. Perhaps you can.
At least, that is what we hope. I've known you more than once to
succeed where others have failed."
The elderly man thus addressed, glanced down at his legs, now
propped up on a stool which someone had brought him, and smiled,
with the pathos of the old who sees the interests of a lifetime
slipping gradually away.
"I am not what I was. I can no longer get down on my hands and
knees to pick up threads from the nap of a rug, or spy out a spot
of blood in the crimson woof of a carpet."
"You shall have Sweetwater here to do the active work for you.
What we want of you is the directing mind--the infallible instinct.
It's a case in a thousand, Gryce. We've never had anything just
like it. You've never had anything at all like it. It will make
you young again."
The old man's eyes shot fire and unconsciously one foot slipped to
the floor. Then he bethought himself and painfully lifted it back
"What are the points? What's the difficulty?" he asked. "A
woman has been shot--"
"No, not shot, stabbed. We thought she had been shot, for that was
intelligible and involved no impossibilities. But Drs. Heath and
Webster, under the eye of the Challoners' own physician, have made
an examination of the wound--an official one, thorough and quite
final so far as they are concerned, and they declare that no bullet
is to be found in the body. As the wound extends no further than
the heart, this settles one great point, at least."
"Dr. Heath is a reliable man and one of our ablest coroners."
"Yes. There can be no question as to the truth of his report. You
know the victim? Her name, I mean, and the character she bore?"
"Yes; so much was told me on my way down."
"A fine girl unspoiled by riches and seeming independence. Happy,
too, to all appearance, or we should be more ready to consider the
possibility of suicide."
"Suicide by stabbing calls for a weapon. Yet none has been found,
"Yet she was killed that way?
"Undoubtedly, and by a long and very narrow blade, larger than a
needle but not so large as the ordinary stiletto."
"Stabbed while by herself, or what you may call by herself? She
had no companion near her?"
"None, if we can believe the four members of the Parrish family who
were seated at the other end of the room.
"And you do believe them?"
"Would a whole family lie--and needlessly? They never knew the
woman--father, maiden aunt and two boys, clear-eyed, jolly young
chaps whom even the horror of this tragedy, perpetrated as it were
under their very nose, cannot make serious for more than a passing
"It wouldn't seem so."
"Yet they swear up and down that nobody crossed the room towards
"So they tell me."
"She fell just a few feet from the desk where she had been writing.
No word, no cry, just a collapse and sudden fall. In olden days
they would have said, struck by a bolt from heaven. But it was a
bolt which drew blood; not much blood, I hear, but sufficient to
end life almost instantly. She never looked up or spoke again.
What do you make of it, Gryce?"
"It's a tough one, and I'm not ready to venture an opinion yet. I
should like to see the desk you speak of, and the spot where she
A young fellow who had been hovering in the background at once
stepped forward. He was the plain-faced detective who had spoken
"Will you take my arm, sir?"
Mr. Gryce's whole face brightened. This Sweetwater, as they called
him, was, I have since understood, one of his proteges and more or
less of a favourite.
"Have you had a chance at this thing?" he asked. "Been over the
ground--studied the affair carefully?"
"Yes, sir; they were good enough to allow it."
"Very well, then, you're in a position to pioneer me. You've seen
it all and won't be in a hurry."
"No; I'm at the end of my rope. I haven't an idea, sir."
"Well, well, that's honest at all events." Then, as he slowly rose
with the other's careful assistance, "There's no crime without its
clew. The thing is to recognise that clew when seen. But I'm in no
position, to make promises. Old days don't return for the asking."
Nevertheless, he looked ten years younger than when he came in, or
so thought those who knew him.
The mezzanine was guarded from all visitors save such as had
official sanction. Consequently, the two remained quite
uninterrupted while they moved about the place in quiet consultation.
Others had preceded them; had examined the plain little desk and
found nothing; had paced off the distances; had looked with longing
and inquiring eyes at the elevator cage and the open archway leading
to the little staircase and the musicians' gallery. But this was
nothing to the old detective. The locale was what he wanted, and
he got it. Whether he got anything else it would be impossible to
say from his manner as he finally sank into a chair by one of the
openings, and looked down on the lobby below. It was full of
people coming and going on all sorts of business, and presently he
drew back, and, leaning on Sweetwater's arm, asked him a few
"Who were the first to rush in here after the Parrishes gave the
"One or two of the musicians from the end of the hall. They had
just finished their programme and were preparing to leave the
gallery. Naturally they reached her first."
Good! their names?"
"Mark Sowerby and Claus Hennerberg. Honest Germans--men who have
played here for years."
"And who followed them? Who came next on the scene?
"Some people from the lobby. They heard the disturbance and
rushed up pell-mell. But not one of these touched her. Later her
"Who did touch her? Anybody, before the father came in?"
"Yes; Miss Clarke, the middle-aged lady with the Parrishes. She
had run towards Miss Challoner as soon as she heard her fall, and
was sitting there with the dead girl's head in her lap when the
musicians showed themselves."
"I suppose she has been carefully questioned?"
"Very, I should say."
"And she speaks of no weapon?"
"No. Neither she nor any one else at that moment suspected murder
or even a violent death. All thought it a natural one--sudden, but
the result of some secret disease."
"Father and all?"
"But the blood? Surely there must have been some show of blood?"
"They say not. No one noticed any. Not till the doctor came--her
doctor who was happily in his office in this very building. He saw
the drops, and uttered the first suggestion of murder."
"How long after was this? Is there any one who has ventured to make
an estimate of the number of minutes which elapsed from the time she
fell, to the moment when the doctor first raised the cry of murder?"
"Yes. Mr. Slater, the assistant manager, who was in the lobby at
the time, says that ten minutes at least must have elapsed."
"Ten minutes and no blood! The weapon must still have been there.
Some weapon with a short and inconspicuous handle. I think they
said there were flowers over and around the place where it struck?"
"Yes, great big scarlet ones. Nobody noticed--nobody looked. A
panic like that seems to paralyse people."
"Ten minutes! I must see every one who approached her during those
ten minutes. Every one, Sweetwater, and I must myself talk with
"You will like her. You will believe every word she says."
"No doubt. All the more reason why I must see her. Sweetwater,
someone drew that weapon out. Effects still, have their causes,
notwithstanding the new cult. The question is who? We must
leave no stone unturned to find that out."
"The stones have all been turned over once."
"Not altogether by me."
"Then they will bear being turned over again. I want to be witness
of the operation."
"Where will you see Miss Clarke?
"Wherever she pleases--only I can't walk far."
"I think I know the place. You shall have the use of this elevator.
It has not been running since last night or it would be full of
curious people all the time, hustling to get a glimpse of this place.
But they'll put a man on for you."
"Very good; manage it as you will. I'll wait here till you're ready.
Explain yourself to the lady. Tell her I'm an old and rheumatic
invalid who has been used to asking his own questions. I'll not
trouble her much. But there is one point she must make clear to me."
Sweetwater did not presume to ask what point, but he hoped to be
fully enlightened when the time came.
And he was. Mr. Gryce had undertaken to educate him for this work,
and never missed the opportunity of giving him a lesson. The three
met in a private sitting-room on an upper floor, the detectives
entering first and the lady coming in soon after. As her quiet
figure appeared in the doorway,
Sweetwater stole a glance at Mr. Gryce. He was not looking her
way, of course; he never looked directly at anybody; but he formed
his impressions for all that, and Sweetwater was anxious to make
sure of these impressions. There was no doubting them in this
instance. Miss Clarke was not a woman to rouse an unfavourable
opinion in any man's mind. Of slight, almost frail build, she had
that peculiar animation which goes with a speaking eye and a widely
sympathetic nature. Without any substantial claims to beauty, her
expression was so womanly and so sweet that she was invariably
Mr. Gryce was engaged at the moment in shifting his cane from the
right hand to the left, but his manner was never more encouraging
or his smile more benevolent.
"Pardon me," he apologised, with one of his old-fashioned bows,
"I'm sorry to trouble you after all the distress you must have been
under this morning. But there is something I wish especially to
ask you in regard to the dreadful occurrence in which you played so
kind a part. You were the first to reach the prostrate woman, I
"Yes. The boys jumped up and ran towards her, but they were
frightened by her looks and left it for me to put my hands under
her and try to lift her up."
"Did you manage it?"
"I succeeded in getting her head into my lap, nothing more."
"And sat so?"
"For some little time. That is, it seemed long, though I believe
it was not more than a minute before two men came running from the
musicians' gallery. One thinks so fast at such a time--and feels
"You knew she was dead, then?"
"I felt her to be so."
"I was sure--I never questioned it."
"You have seen women in a faint?"
"Yes, many times."
"What made the difference? Why should you believe Miss Challoner
dead simply because she lay still and apparently lifeless?
"I cannot tell you. Possibly, death tells its own story. I only
know how I felt."
"Perhaps there was another reason? Perhaps, that, consciously or
unconsciously, you laid your palm upon her heart?"
Miss Clarke started, and her sweet face showed a moment's perplexity.
"Did I?" she queried, musingly. Then with a sudden access of
feeling, "I may have done so, indeed, I believe I did. My arms
were around her; it would not have been an unnatural action."
"No; a very natural one, I should say. Cannot you tell me
positively whether you did this or not?"
"Yes, I did. I had forgotten it, but I remember now." And the
glance she cast him while not meeting his eye showed that she
understood the importance of the admission. "I know," she said,
"what you are going to ask me now. Did I feel anything there but
the flowers and the tulle? No, Mr. Gryce, I did not. There was
no poniard in the wound."
Mr. Gryce felt around, found a chair and sank into it.
"You are a truthful woman," said he. "And," he added more slowly,
"composed enough in character I should judge not to have made any
mistake on this very vital point."
"I think so, Mr. Gryce. I was in a state of excitement, of course;
but the woman was a stranger to me, and my feelings were not unduly
"Sweetwater, we can let my suggestion go in regard to those ten
minutes I spoke of. The time is narrowed down to one, and in that
one, Miss Clarke was the only person to touch her."
"The only one," echoed the lady, catching perhaps the slight
rising sound of query in his voice.
"I will trouble you no further." So said the old detective,
thoughtfully. "Sweetwater, help me out of this." His eye was dull
and his manner betrayed exhaustion. But vigour returned to him
before he had well reached the door, and he showed some of his old
spirit as he thanked Miss Clarke and turned to take the elevator.
"But one possibility remains," he confided to Sweetwater, as they
stood waiting at the elevator door. "Miss Challoner died from a
stab. The next minute she was in this lady's arms. No weapon
protruded from the wound, nor was any found on or near her in the
mezzanine. What follows? She struck the blow herself, and the
strength of purpose which led her to do this, gave her the
additional force to pull the weapon out and fling it from her. It
did not fall upon the floor around her; therefore, it flew through
one of those openings into the lobby, and there it either will be,
or has been found."
It was this statement, otherwise worded, which gave me my triumph
THE RED CLOAK
"What results? Speak up, Sweetwater."
"None. Every man, woman and boy connected with the hotel has been
questioned; many of them routed out of their beds for the purpose,
but not one of them picked up anything from the floor of the lobby,
or knows of any one who did."
There now remain the guests."
"And after them--(pardon me, Mr. Gryce) the general public which
rushed in rather promiscuously last night."
"I know it; it's a task, but it must be carried through. Put up
bulletins, publish your wants in the papers;--do anything, only
gain your end."
A bulletin was put up.
Some hours later, Sweetwater re-entered the room, and, approaching
Mr. Gryce with a smile, blurted out:
"The bulletin is a great go. I think--of course, I cannot be sure
--that it's going to do the business. I've watched every one who
stopped to read it. Many showed interest and many, emotion; she
seems to have had a troop of friends. But embarrassment! only one
showed that. I thought you would like to know."
"Embarrassment? Humph! a man?"
"No, a woman; a lady, sir; one of the transients. I found out in
a jiffy all they could tell me about her."
"A woman! We didn't expect that. Where is she? Still in the
"No, sir. She took the elevator while I was talking with the clerk."
"There's nothing in it. You mistook her expression."
"I don't think so. I had noticed her when she first came into the
lobby. She was talking to her daughter who was with her, and looked
natural and happy. But no sooner had she seen and read that
bulletin, than the blood shot up into her face and her manner became
furtive and hasty. There was no mistaking the difference, sir.
Almost before I could point her out, she had seized her daughter by
the arm and hurried her towards the elevator. I wanted to follow
her, but you may prefer to make your own inquiries. Her room is on
the seventh floor, number 712, and her name is Watkins. Mrs. Horace
Watkins of Nashville."
Mr. Gryce nodded thoughtfully, but made no immediate effort to rise.
"Is that all you know about her?" he asked.
"Yes; this is the first time she has stopped at this hotel. She
came yesterday. Took a room indefinitely. Seems all right; but she
did blush, sir. I ever saw its beat in a young girl."
"Call the desk. Say that I'm to be told if Mrs. Watkins of
Nashville rings up during the next ten minutes. We'll give her
that long to take some action. If she fails to make any move, I'll
make my own approaches."
Sweetwater did as he was bid, then went back to his place in the
But he returned almost instantly.
"Mrs. Watkins has just telephoned down that she is going to--to
The old man struggled to his feet. "No. 712, do you say? Seven
stories," he sighed. But as he turned with a hobble, he stopped.
"There are difficulties in the way of this interview," he remarked.
"A blush is not much to go upon. I'm afraid we shall have to resort
to the shadow business and that is your work, not mine."
But here the door opened and a boy brought in a line which had been
left at the desk. It related to the very matter then engaging them,
and ran thus:
"I see that information is desired as to whether any person was
seen to stoop to the lobby floor last night at or shortly after
the critical moment of Miss Challoner's fall in the half story
above. I can give such information. I was in the lobby at the
time, and in the height of the confusion following this alarming
incident, I remember seeing a lady,--one of the new arrivals
(there were several coming in at the time)--stoop quickly down
and pick up something from the floor. I thought nothing of it at
the time, and so paid little attention to her appearance. I can
only recall the suddenness with which she stooped and the colour
of the cloak she wore. It was red, and the whole garment was
voluminous. If you wish further particulars, though in truth, I
have no more to give, you can find me in 356.
"HENRY A. MCELROY."
"Humph! This should simplify our task," was Mr. Gryce's comment,
as he handed the note over to Sweetwater. "You can easily find out
if the lady, now on the point of departure, can be identified with
the one described by Mr. McElroy. If she can, I am ready to meet
"Here goes then!" cried Sweetwater, and quickly left the room.
When he returned, it was not with his most hopeful air.
"The cloak doesn't help," he declared. "No one remembers the cloak.
But the time of Mrs. Watkins' arrival was all right. She came in
directly on the heels of this catastrophe."
"She did! Sweetwater, I will see her. Manage it for me at once."
"The clerk says that it had better be upstairs. She is a very
sensitive woman. There might be a scene, if she were intercepted
on her way out."
"Very well." But the look which the old detective threw at his
bandaged legs was not without its pathos.
And so it happened that just as Mrs. Watkins was watching the
wheeling out of her trunks, there appeared in the doorway before
her, an elderly gentleman, whose expression, always benevolent,
save at moments when benevolence would be quite out of keeping with
the situation, had for some reason, so marked an effect upon her,
that she coloured under his eye, and, indeed, showed such
embarrassment, that all doubt of the propriety of his intrusion
vanished from the old man's mind, and with the ease of one only too
well accustomed to such scenes, he kindly remarked:
"Am I speaking to Mrs. Watkins of Nashville?"
"You are," she faltered, with another rapid change of colour. "I
--I am just leaving. I hope you will excuse me. I--"
"I wish I could," he smiled, hobbling in and confronting her
quietly in her own room. "But circumstances make it quite imperative
that I should have a few words with you on a topic which need not
be disagreeable to you, and probably will not be. My name is Gryce.
This will probably convey nothing to you, but I am not unknown to the
management below, and my years must certainly give you confidence in
the propriety of my errand. A beautiful and charming young woman
died here last night. May I ask if you knew her?"
"I?" She was trembling violently now, but whether with indignation
or some other more subtle emotion, it would be difficult to say.
"No, I'm from the South. I never saw the young lady. Why do you
ask? I do not recognise your right. I--I--"
Certainly her emotion must be that of simple indignation. Mr. Gryce
made one of his low bows, and propping himself against the table he
stood before, remarked civilly:--
"I had rather not force my rights. The matter is so very ordinary.
I did not suppose you knew Miss Challoner, but one must begin
somehow, and as you came in at the very moment when the alarm was
raised in the lobby, I thought perhaps you could tell me something
which would aid me in my effort to elicit the real facts of the case.
You were crossing the lobby at the time--"
"Yes." She raised her head. "So were a dozen others--"
"Madam,"--the interruption was made in his kindliest tones, but in
a way which nevertheless suggested authority. "Something was picked
up from the floor at that moment. If the dozen you mention were
witnesses to this act we do not know it. But we do know that it
did not pass unobserved by you. Am I not correct? Didn't you see
a certain person--I will mention no names--stoop and pick up
something from the lobby floor?"
"No." The word came out with startling violence. "I was conscious
of nothing but the confusion." She was facing him with determination
and her eyes were fixed boldly on his face. But her lips quivered,
and her cheeks were white, too white now for simple indignation.
"Then I have made a big mistake," apologised the ever-courteous
detective. "Will you pardon me? It would have settled a very
serious question if it could be found that the object thus picked
up was the weapon which killed Miss Challoner. That is my excuse
for the trouble I have given you."
He was not looking at her; he was looking at her hand which rested
on the table before which he himself stood. Did the fingers tighten
a little and dig into the palm they concealed? He thought so, and
was very slow in turning limpingly about towards the door.
Meanwhile, would she speak? No. The silence was so marked, he
felt it an excuse for stealing another glance in her direction. She
was not looking his way but at a door in the partition wall on her
right; and the look was one very akin to anxious fear. The next
moment he understood it. The door burst open, and a young girl
bounded into the room, with the merry cry:
"All ready, mother. I'm glad we are going to the Clarendon. I
hate hotels where people die almost before your eyes."
What the mother said at this outburst is immaterial. What the
detective did is not. Keeping on his way, he reached the door, but
not to open it wider; rather to close it softly but with unmistakable
decision. The cloak which enveloped the girl was red, and full
enough to be called voluminous.
"Who is this?" demanded the girl, her indignant glances flashing
from one to the other.
"I don't know," faltered the mother in very evident distress. "He
says he has a right to ask us questions and he has been asking
"Not about me," laughed the girl, with a toss of her head Mr. Gryce
would have corrected in one of his grandchildren. "He can have
nothing to say about me." And she began to move about the room
in an aimless, half-insolent way.
Mr. Gryce stared hard at the few remaining belongings of the two
women, lying in a heap on the table, and half musingly, half
"The person who stooped wore a long red cloak. Probably you
preceded your daughter, Mrs. Watkins."
The lady thus brought to the point made a quick gesture towards the
girl who suddenly stood still, and, with a rising colour in her
cheeks, answered, with some show of resolution on her own part:
"You say your name is Gryce and that you have a right to address me
thus pointedly on a subject which you evidently regard as serious.
That is not exact enough for me. Who are you, sir? What is your
"I think you have guessed it. I am a detective from Headquarters.
What I want of you I have already stated. Perhaps this young lady
can tell me what you cannot. I shall be pleased if this is so."
"Caroline"--Then the mother broke down. "Show the gentleman what
you picked up from the lobby floor last night."
The girl laughed again, loudly and with evident bravado, before
she threw the cloak back and showed what she had evidently been
holding in her hand from the first, a sharp-pointed, gold-handled
"It was lying there and I picked it up. I don't see any harm in
"You probably meant none. You couldn't have known the part it
had just played in this tragic drama," said the old detective
looking carefully at the cutter which he had taken in his hand,
but not so carefully that he failed to note that the look of
distress was not lifted from the mother's face either by her
daughter's words or manner.
"You have washed this?" he asked.
"No. Why should I wash it? It was clean enough. I was just going
down to give it in at the desk. I wasn't going to carry it away."
And she turned aside to the window and began to hum, as though done
with the whole matter.
The old detective rubbed his chin, glanced again at the paper-cutter,
then at the girl in the window, and lastly at the mother, who had
lifted her head again and was facing him bravely.
"It is very important," he observed to the latter, "that your
daughter should be correct in her statement as to the condition of
this article when she picked it up. Are you sure she did not wash
"I don't think she did. But I'm sure she will tell you the truth
about that. Caroline, this is a police matter. Any mistake about
it may involve us in a world of trouble and keep you from getting
back home in time for your coming-out party. Did you--did you
wash this cutter when you got upstairs, or--or--" she added, with
a propitiatory glance at Mr. Gryce--"wipe it off at any time between
then and now? Don't answer hastily. Be sure. No one can blame you
for that act. Any girl, as thoughtless as you, might do that."
"Mother, how can I tell what I did?" flashed out the girl, wheeling
round on her heel till she faced them both. "I don't remember doing
a thing to it. I just brought it up. A thing found like that
belongs to the finder. You needn't hold it out towards me like that.
I don't want it now; I'm sick of it. Such a lot of talk about a
paltry thing which couldn't have cost ten dollars." And she wheeled
"It isn't the value." Mr. Gryce could be very patient. "It's the
fact that we believe it to have been answerable for Miss Challoner's
death--that is, if there was any blood on it when you picked it
"Blood!" The girl was facing them again, astonishment struggling
with disgust on her plain but mobile features. "Blood! is that
what you mean. No wonder I hate it. Take it away," she cried.
"Oh, mother, I'll never pick up anything again which doesn't belong
to me! Blood!" she repeated in horror, flinging herself into her
Mr. Gryce thought he understood the situation. Here was a little
kleptomaniac whose weakness the mother was struggling to hide.
Light was pouring in. He felt his body's weight less on that
miserable foot of his.
"Does that frighten you? Are you so affected by the thought of
"Don't ask me. And I put the thing under my pillow! I thought
it was so--so pretty."
"Mrs. Watkins," Mr. Gryce from that moment ignored the daughter,
"did you see it there?"
"Yes; but I didn't know where it came from. I had not seen my
daughter stoop. I didn't know where she got it till I read that
"Never mind that. The question agitating me is whether any stain
was left under that pillow. We want to be sure of the connection
between this possible weapon and the death by stabbing which we
all deplore--if there is a connection."
"I didn't see any stain, but you can look for yourself. The bed
has been made up, but there was no change of linen. We expected
to remain here; I see no good to be gained by hiding any of the
"None whatever, Madam."
"Come, then. Caroline, sit down and stop crying. Mr. Gryce
believes that your only fault was in not taking this object at once
to the desk."
"Yes, that's all," acquiesced the detective after a short study
of the shaking figure and distorted features of the girl. "You had
no idea, I'm sure, where this weapon came from, or for what it had
been used. That's evident."
Her shudder, as she seated herself, was very convincing. She was
too young to simulate so successfully emotions of this character.
"I'm glad of that," she responded, half fretfully, half gratefully,
as Mr. Gryce followed her mother into the adjoining room. "I've
had a bad enough time of it without being blamed for what I didn't
know and didn't do."
Mr. Gryce laid little stress upon these words, but much upon the
lack of curiosity she showed in the minute and careful examination
he now made of her room. There was no stain on the pillow-cover
and none on the bureau-spread where she might very naturally have
laid the cutter down on first coming into her room. The blade was
so polished that it must have been rubbed off somewhere, either
purposely or by accident. Where then, since not here? He asked to
see her gloves--the ones she had worn the previous night.
"They are the same she is wearing now," the anxious mother assured
him. "Wait, and I will get them for you."
"No need. Let her hold out her hands in token of amity. I shall
They returned to where the girl still sat, wrapped in her cloak,
sobbing still, but not so violently.
"Caroline, you may take off your things," said the mother, drawing
the pins from her own hat. "We shall not go to-day."
The child shot her mother one disappointed look, then proceeded to
follow suit. When her hat was off, she began to take off her gloves.
As soon as they were on the table, the mother pushed them over to Mr.
Gryce. As he looked at them, the girl lifted off her cloak.
"Will--will he tell?" she whispered behind its ample folds into her
The answer came quickly, but not in the mother's tones. Mr. Gryce's
ears had lost none of their ancient acuteness.
"I do not see that I should gain much by doing so. The one
discovery which would link this find of yours indissolubly with
Miss Challoner's death, I have failed to make. If I am equally
unsuccessful below--if I can establish no closer connection there
than here between this cutter and the weapon which killed Miss
Challoner, I shall have no cause to mention the matter. It will be
too extraneous to the case. Do you remember the exact spot where
you stooped, Miss Watkins?"
"No, no. Somewhere near those big chairs; I didn't have to step out
of my way; I really didn't."
Mr. Gryce's answering smile was a study. It seemed to convey a
two-fold message, one for the mother and one for the child, and both
were comforting. But he went away, disappointed. The clew which
promised so much was, to all appearance, a false one.
He could soon tell.
Mr. Gryce's fears were only too well founded. Though Mr. McElroy
was kind enough to point out the exact spot where he saw Miss Watkins
stoop, no trace of blood was found upon the rug which had lain there,
nor had anything of the kind been washed up by the very careful man
who scrubbed the lobby floor in the early morning. This was
disappointing, as its presence would have settled the whole question.
When, these efforts all exhausted, the two detectives faced each
other again in the small room given up to their use, Mr. Gryce showed
his discouragement. To be certain of a fact you cannot prove has not
the same alluring quality for the old that it has for the young.
Sweetwater watched him in some concern, then with the persistence
which was one of his strong points, ventured finally to remark:
"I have but one idea left on the subject."
"And what is that?" Old as he was, Mr. Gryce was alert in a moment.
"The girl wore a red cloak. If I mistake not, the lining was also
red. A spot on it might not show to the casual observer. Yet it
would mean much to us."
A faint blush rose to the old man's cheek.
"Shall I request the privilege of looking that garment over?
The young fellow ducked and left the room. When he returned, it
was with a downcast air.
"Nothing doing," said he.
And then there was silence.
"We only need to find out now that this cutter was not even Miss
Challoner's property," remarked Mr. Gryce, at last, with a gesture
towards the object named, lying openly on the table before him.
"That should be easy. Shall I take it to their rooms and show it
to her maid?"
"If you can do so without disturbing the old gentleman."
But here they were themselves disturbed. A knock at the door was
followed by the immediate entrance of the very person just mentioned.
Mr. Challoner had come in search of the inspector, and showed some
surprise to find his place occupied by an unknown old man.
But Mr. Gryce, who discerned tidings in the bereaved father's face,
was all alacrity in an instant. Greeting his visitor with a smile
which few could see without trusting the man, he explained the
inspector's absence and introduced himself in his own capacity.
Mr. Challoner had heard of him. Nevertheless, he did not seem
inclined to speak.
Mr. Gryce motioned Sweetwater from the room. With a woeful look the
young detective withdrew, his last glance cast at the cutter still
lying in full view on the table.
Mr. Gryce, not unmindful himself of this object, took it up, then
laid it down again, with an air of seeming abstraction.
The father's attention was caught.
"What is that?" he cried, advancing a step and bestowing more than
an ordinary glance at the object thus brought casually, as it were,
to his notice. "I surely recognise this cutter. Does it belong
Mr. Gryce, observing the other's, emotion, motioned him to a chair.
As his visitor sank into it, he remarked, with all the consideration
exacted by the situation:
"It is unknown property, Mr. Challoner. But we have some reason to
think it belonged to your daughter. Are we correct in this surmise?
"I have seen it, or one like it, often in her hand." Here his eyes
suddenly dilated and the hand stretched forth to grasp it quickly
drew back. "Where--where was it found?" he hoarsely demanded. "O
God! am I to be crushed to the very earth by sorrow!"
Mr. Gryce hastened to give him such relief as was consistent with
"It was picked up--last night--from the lobby floor. There is
seemingly nothing to connect it with her death. Yet--"
The pause was eloquent. Mr. Challoner gave the detective an agonised
look and turned white to the lips. Then gradually, as the silence
continued, his head fell forward, and he muttered almost
"I honestly believe her the victim of some heartless stranger. I
do now; but--but I cannot mislead the police. At any cost I must
retract a statement I made under false impressions and with no
desire to deceive. I said that I knew all of the gentlemen who
admired her and aspired to her hand, and that they were all reputable
men and above committing a crime of this or any other kind. But it
seems that I did not know her secret heart as thoroughly as I had
supposed. Among her effects I have just come upon a batch of letters
--love letters I am forced to acknowledge--signed by initials
totally strange to me. The letters are manly in tone--most of them
"What about the one?"
"Shows that the writer was displeased. It may mean nothing, but I
could not let the matter go without setting myself right with the
authorities. If it might be allowed to rest here--if those letters
can remain sacred, it would save me the additional pang of seeing
her inmost concerns--the secret and holiest recesses of a woman's
heart, laid open to the public. For, from the tenor of most of these
letters, she--she was not averse to the writer."
Mr. Gryce moved a little restlessly in his chair and stared hard at
the cutter so conveniently placed under his eye. Then his manner
softened and he remarked:
"We will do what we can. But you must understand that the matter is
not a simple one. That, in fact, it contains mysteries which demand
police investigation. We do not dare to trifle with any of the facts.
The inspector, and, if not he, the coroner, will have to be told about
these letters and will probably ask to see them."
"They are the letters of a gentleman."
"With the one exception."
"Yes, that is understood." Then in a sudden heat and with an almost
sublime trust in his daughter notwithstanding the duplicity he had
"Nothing--not the story told by these letters, or the sight of
that sturdy paper-cutter with its long and very slender blade, will
make me believe that she willingly took her own life. You do not
know, cannot know, the rare delicacy of her nature. She was a lady
through and through. If she had meditated death--if the breach
suggested by the one letter I have mentioned, should have so preyed
upon her spirits as to lead her to break her old father's heart
and outrage the feelings of all who knew her, she could not, being
the woman she was, choose a public place for such an act--an hotel
writing-room--in face of a lobby full of hurrying men. It was out
of nature. Every one who knows her will tell you so. The deed was
an accident--incredible--but still an accident."
Mr. Gryce had respect for this outburst. Making no attempt to answer
it, he suggested, with some hesitation, that Miss Challoner had been
seen writing a letter previous to taking those fatal steps from the
desk which ended so tragically. Was this letter to one of her lady
friends, as reported, and was it as far from suggesting the awful
tragedy which followed, as he had been told?
"It was a cheerful letter. Such a one as she often wrote to her
little protegees here and there. I judge that this was written to
some girl like that, for the person addressed was not known to her
maid, any more than she was to me. It expressed an affectionate
interest, and it breathed encouragement--encouragement! and she
meditating her own death at the moment! Impossible! That letter
should exonerate her if nothing else does."
Mr. Gryce recalled the incongruities, the inconsistencies and even
the surprising contradictions which had often marked the conduct of
men and women, in his lengthy experience with the strange, the
sudden, and the tragic things of life, and slightly shook his head.
He pitied Mr. Challoner, and admired even more his courage in face
of the appalling grief which had overwhelmed him, but he dared not
encourage a false hope. The girl had killed herself and with this
weapon. They might not be able to prove it absolutely, but it was
nevertheless true, and this broken old man would some day be obliged
to acknowledge it. But the detective said nothing of this, and was
very patient with the further arguments the other advanced to prove
his point and the lofty character of the girl to whom, misled by
appearance, the police seemed inclined to attribute the awful sin
But when, this topic exhausted, Mr. Challoner rose to leave the
room, Mr. Gryce showed where his own thoughts still centred, by
asking him the date of the correspondence discovered between his
daughter and her unknown admirer.
"Some of the letters were dated last summer, some this fall. The
one you are most anxious to hear about only a month back," he
added, with unconquerable devotion to what he considered his duty.
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